Part Of Celtic’s Malaise Lies At Lennoxtown And Our Flawed Hiring Practices.

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When Luis Palma missed his second penalty in a minute at the weekend, the question that automatically arose is “How could that happen?” Well, when you put it in context it can happen quite easily. We have missed several penalties this season, across several players. That suggests that something isn’t working as it should be.

But let’s put it in a wider context. We get loads of corners and free kicks in the average game. Our record of generating goals from those is abysmal. We also frequently lose goals from those set pieces. That suggests something even more fundamental.

If you look at Celtic’s coaching staff, you see a complete dearth of talent. John Kennedy has been at the club so long that he cannot possibly be bringing fresh ideas to the place. The slide in the quality of our dead-ball situations is obvious. What exactly has he or Gavin Strachan, one of two full time coaches working under him, done to change that?

We have one other member of the first team coaching staff; Adam Sadler, hired by Rodgers in December. This is still too few senior coaches for a club our size. Where’s the fitness coach? Where are the specialists? Where, in particular, is the dedicated set piece coach? Because it’s clear that when you have so few coaching staff things get missed.

And you don’t have to look too closely to see that we aren’t doing certain things. We’re barely working on set-pieces at all. If we were we’d look better at defending them, and we would definitely be doing better at converting some of those that we get into goals. These things are important. On a day like Saturday, they can be absolutely critical.

On top of that, you need to look at where we get our coaching staff from. These guys are hardly the cream of the crop, are they? Kennedy has never coached outside Celtic Park. There are obviously far better coaches out there than him. How long do we maintain loyalty to the guy? He’s served us well, but you either move forward or you stand still and Kennedy is a classic example of this club settling for rather than aiming to bring in the best.

Gavin Strachan? We got him from Peterborough. Sheer cronyism. A serious club would not be hiring an important backroom staff member on the basis of who his daddy is. But then, we hired the goddamned head of scouting on the basis of who his daddy is. Still, a coach from Peterborough probably shouldn’t be near Celtic Park regardless.

Our goalkeeping coach was promoted from within. Stevie Woods is another guy who has served this club with distinction and deserves our thanks and our praise, but maybe just maybe we should be aiming higher on that front.

Our head of academy coaching is Chris McCart. He was hired from Motherwell. Based on what? How many academy produced Motherwell players are setting the heather on fire? We’ve got one in the squad, but he’s not a first team regular right now and will probably not be here for much longer. Him aside, who has their academy graduated that merits his role at Celtic? Is there no-one other there we could have hired with a proven record of producing young talent? You want to hazard a guess how long Chris McCart has been at Celtic? It’s 20 years. He’s been the head of academy and youth for twelve of them. How many first team players have come through in that time?

The guy who works under him is Steven Hammill, hired from Motherwell last year. He had been at Motherwell for 17 years. He and McCart obviously know each other well, from having played together at that club. So, you can see that we swept the globe for the best person there as well, right? I mean, do we even care about standards? About quality?

According to some sites, we’re still employing Gordon Strachan on God alone knows what basis, and I am choosing not to believe that because it’s too ridiculous to possibly be true.

Our B team is coached by two former players, Darren O’Dea and Stephen McManus. Again, not exactly a great example of our scouring the earth for the brightest and the best. The stench of mediocrity off the B team at the moment is not just related to the atrocious standards of the league they are currently active in.

This is further evidence of a colossal failure of strategic vision and even imagination at the top of the Celtic house. The whole operation is amateurish and characterised by small time thinking. We all know that Kennedy is built in with the bricks and that the club has insisted on protecting both him and Strachan from whatever changes take place … but for whose benefit? You can see that things aren’t working in a lot of areas of the team right now, and that very obviously tracks back to what happens (or doesn’t happen) on the training ground.

Our club badly needs a major strategic review. You know why there won’t be one? Because the last time we commissioned one it was highly critical of the working practices of a lot of people inside the club, including the then CEO Peter Lawwell.

These people do not like to be told they are wrong. Even when it’s obvious they are.

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  • Pat says:

    Our attacking set pieces are dreadful. We should have a minimum 2 penalty takers that are confident. Rather than a Mish mash of whoever seems to be flavour of the week. Corners are as bad, often leading us from attack to passing the ball along our back line in seconds.

    No invention or real purpose.

  • Les Bagan says:

    Hi james i .am 77years old and sometimes i feel you are a bit harsh on the whole structure of the club, but i must admit you are starting to convince me,good info today keep up the good work

  • Seamus Campbell says:

    Think you’re bang on James, hugely important areas of the club with nothing fresh to offer. Same old same old.

  • Tony B says:

    The Kellyfication of Celtic moves on apace and has morphed into the Lawwellification of the club.

    There appears no end in sight to this inevitable managed decline.

  • mick says:

    Arteta hired a set piece coach at Arsenal and that has made some difference to them.
    I said the exact same to my matw yesterday, we are so wasteful at free kicks, corners and especially penalties.
    These short corners are an absolute waste, looks like no plan. just try and walk it in, like our open play.

  • Roonsa says:

    Your article put me in mind of a TV show that was broadcast on BBC1 in the early 90s called The Troubleshooter. The show surrouned some guy called Sir John something or other who visited and advised struggling businesses.

    He could be brutal at times. I really believe we could be doing with some of that. We actually could be doing with a change of ownership as what he have just now is stale and going all mouldy.

    I can hear the idiots just now … top of the league, £70M in the bank – what’s the problem? Well the problem is the fans aren’t happy. And as we all know, without fans …..

  • Yada Ya says:

    Was discussing just this situation recently. Everyone has a Celtic connection or has been there for far too long. No new input or ideas, management has buried our head in the sand. We have only created rampant stagnation

  • Pan says:

    Really good article again James.
    This is definitely a big part of the problem.

  • scousebhoy says:

    thank heaven for the bloggers and the keyboard warriors.

  • Frank Connelly says:

    the problem is obvious. Its purely lack of height to defend cross balls or attacking corners. We are being bullied by taller stronger defenders. That said our use of the ball particularly at corners simply backs up what I am saying.

  • Johnny Green says:

    Is there such a thing as ‘taking a shy properly’ coach? 🙂

    For we have two full backs who haven’t a clue how to. In fact why no referee has punished Johnston for taking foul throws I will never know.

    What I would love to see is someone who can throw the ball long, the equivalent of a corner kick, there must be someone in the squad who can do that, it’s a weapon that other teams have, why don’t we?

  • Dan says:

    Review will never happen. Club exists now to feed the chosen ones. Absolutely no ambition, happy to increase the balance sheet out of too loyal fans pockets. This season is mind boggling in its mediocracy and this will continue. Really cannot see change ever happening. What we see is, and will always be Celtic

  • Jim says:

    I just stated the same thing regarding set pieces before I even got to this blog , James short corners are such a waste,our set piece record has been poor long before Rodgers or Ange so it’s got to be our coaching staff, Kennedy and Strachan but we’ve been saying that about these two for years as well.

  • Matt says:

    This season worries me. With the riches available in next season’s CL any sane club in Celtics position would surely spend/invest at least 20m on players to make it highly likely they will win the league and then make a very good profit from the CL. It MUST be asked why they don’t speculate to accumulate. It makes no business sense to risk losing the league and fuels conspiracy theories about our wish to be part of a bloody Old Firm marriage. It really makes you wonder what is actually going on

    • Clachnacuddin and the Hoops says:

      It really does indeed Matt and as is raised in the article we are simply appalling at penalties and set pieces and surely, surely that is the final final end for Palma on the penalties for once and for all…

      We are also far far too lightweight and melluable on the field of play and that is something that needs addressed and addressed pretty bloody soon –

      But the clock ticks and ticks and ticks…

      And it’s getting near the witching hour –

      And if nothing is done it’s gonna be a bitching hour x 1,000 fold for these old grey men if na da, na da gets done !

  • Charlie Green says:

    You are bang on. You only have to look at what a little coaching at Aberdeen did for Scales and Christie. Something far wrong with the backroom staff.
    I think Lawwell had a chance for a clearout and some compensation as Ange was going to take them with him and he knocked it back.

  • Johnno says:

    Would totally agree James that the whole coaching system could possibly do with restructuring imo.
    What I don’t really understand is just how highly Ange spoke about them all and involved them all within the success he achieved at our club?
    Even Rodgers can’t speak highly enough regarding John Kennedy, and yet nobody has to date either.
    Personally this again should be something that the manager should be dealing with?
    Most clubs bring in a new manager along with his whole backroom staff?
    This isn’t something we seem interested in doing whatsoever, especially when the backroom staff are lasting longer than the term of the actual manager?
    Strange set up that’s been in operation for way too long imo, and fail to see how that current set up has enough within it to take ourselves to the higher degree of CL where them so called finer details can be the difference between 3 points and nothing?
    Could we also be at a point where are coaching staff aren’t able to deliver upon what Rodgers actually wants to set this Celtic team up and in a manner that suits the manager ways of thinking?
    Would agree something still isn’t quite right behind the scenes, especially with the level of drop off in performances from established players especially imo.
    But again that responsibility lays at the door of Rodgers, that needs to find solutions to problems that still exists within areas that should be improved upon also imo.

  • Michael McCartney says:

    Some good points James but a wee bit of a scatter gun approach in your criticism, we don’t want to throw the baby out with the bath water. mostly this century we’ve been successful especially domestically.
    In my opinion it’s a wee bit early to panic, the next 5 games are crucial for this season, 15 points and we’ll be cruising, one defeat or even a draw will leave us vulnerable.
    I know you are a big defender of BR, I honestly think the juries out, I was neither a critic or a fan on his 2nd coming, but was prepared judge him on results. Win the League and I would deem him a success. Not to win the title would be a big failure, after having a 7 point lead and the better players, even without the couple of reinforcements we all crave.

  • SSMPM says:

    If we have a strength it’s in open play passing. In every other aspect of set plays and dead ball situations we’re dreadful. We have no height to punish and are vulnerable to be punished. The stats for these must be almost non existent.
    Some fans will attribute Brendan’s style of play for our failings but possession is all we have at present. Some will say it wasn’t like this under Ange but we were utter shite after Xmas last season.
    I lay a lot of responsibility in the height of the team particularly when we play some of the defensive teams full of gert farmers and at the players inability to execute. Or simply said our players are just not that good. Good enough to scrape by, vulnerable to bad performances and lacklustre most times.
    What the hell has happened to Kyogo? Or our finishing in general. Can our striker not hit a penalty either? We have more misses than a Morman. If we end up scraping by it’s because of the open play, it’s seems to be all we’ve got so I can see why Brendan is focussed on it. Oh aye and the fact that the other teams are a bag of shite. HH

  • John Kane says:

    Hi James.
    This is a well thought out observation and clearly highlights the need to “freshen things up”. However I would suggest that all of those mentioned can be cast in the same light. Stevie Woods for instance is very highly rated and has been for some time, not just within our corridors. I also wouldn’t be harsh on Mssrs. O’Dea and McManus who are cutting their teeth in coaching. Xabi Alonso cut his teeth at B Team level, as did Guardiola many moons ago. So there’s absolutely no harm in that at all. I do agree that John Kennedy needs a new gig elsewhere. To be fair we’ve also previously brought in Damian Duff and more recently Harry Kewell. Two top class players who made a huge impression when here. It can be done and has been done previously.

  • EKbhoy1888 says:

    You also forgot to mention the McStay dynasty that’s being continued with Willie and his son John scouting and coaching in at Parkhead. Willie’s dad John was also a scout. I mean ffs guys give nepotism a wee break please. There’s got to be better scouts and coaches out there.

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